12 PM Feb 11 2012, Golden Nugget (Laughlin), 172nd (224 entries)

After slowly building my starting stack from 12K to 17K in seat 1 (among my preferred seat numbers, this one had the added plus of being on the side of the room by a wall) at one of the tournament's overflow tables in the regular poker room, when it came time to break up the table and move all us players into the tournament room, not only did I draw the undesirable seat number 4, the tables in that room were bunched in way too closely to one another, leaving almost no space to sit down. Our table was right in the middle of the sea of players, too. When the player behind me would lean back in his seat, he'd bump into me. The whole scene reminded me of sitting on a plane.

Good cards might have helped make it all worthwhile, but mine went completely dry.

It got to the point where hands like

in early position started looking really good to me. I would still fold, but compared to everything else - hands like

,

,

and

,

ace-rag seemed like a great hand to play!

When my stack had been eaten away by the blinds and antes down to 12K, and they were going up to 100-400-800 on the next hand, I caught

on the button. A player in early position called the 600 chips, so I decided to limp in myself for 600.

Then the small blind put in a 5.5x raise to 3300. The early position limper called the 3300. Without much hesitation I went all-in, for a variety of reasons: (a) impatience from the crummy preflop cards I'd been getting, (b) the imminent rise in the blinds and antes, (c) the break had already begun, thereby possibly increasing the chance that both my opponents would fold, (d) the chance of substantially increasing my stack if the hand were played out and I won, and (e) frankly I was just getting tired of being packed in so tightly in this sea of players, half-hoping I'd bust.

After deliberating for a bit, the small blind decided to call. The other player folded. The player in the blind turned over

I didn't want to see that queen in his hand. No ten or other winning cards fell on the board, so I was out fairly early in 172nd place.

It's doubtful I'll enter this monthly $10K-guarantee tournament at the Golden Nugget anymore. I must have played it ten times now without cashing once. The playing environment is substandard and the tournament isn't run all that well compared to tournaments at other casinos. It's Laughlin's only big (somewhat, anyway) poker tournament, which explains why it draws so many players.

The Golden Nugget's poker room in Las Vegas isn't that much better. There's hardly any space between the tables up there either. With so many far better rooms to choose from in Las Vegas and L.A., why bother?

The Santa Fe Station casino in northwest Las Vegas has a similar monthly prize-pool-guaranteed tournament that's way better. The room is excellent, the tournament has a better structure, and as if that weren't enough, the SFS offers high hand payouts to its tournament players. When I played there last summer they gave me $50 when I made quad sixes on a hand. They pay it even if everyone else folds. Sure it's just 50 bucks, but hey, I'll take it!